ACLU Says Proposed Anti-Abortion Bill Targets Low-Income Kentuckians

Jan 7, 2021

ACLU logo
Credit ACLU

  Kentucky’s legislature will consider a bill during the upcoming session which aims to amend the state’s Constitution to exclude any protected rights to abortion procedures or funding. An ACLU representative said the measure may unfairly impact low-income Kentuckians.

District 4 Rep. Lynn Bechler, co-sponsor of the bill, said the bill would effectively allow Kentucky to become an “abortion free” state should one of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decisions, Roe v. Wade, be overturned. He said many representatives, including himself, are “pro-life.”

“What we're trying to do is make sure that if Roe v. Wade is overturned that there can't be a case that comes up in Kentucky that says, ‘Well, based on the Kentucky constitution, abortion can be allowed in the common law,’” he said. “As long as the Supreme Court decision is in effect, then our amendment would have no impact whatsoever.” 

This comes into conflict with the ruling; state laws banning abortion—except when the mother’s life is in danger— are considered unconstitutional under the 14th amendment. The amendment will be brought to Kentuckians for a vote. 

Bechler said despite the short session, he believes the bill will receive much support. 

“I believe there’s a better than 50% chance that we will with the short session,” he said.

American Civil Liberties Union Policy Strategist Jackie McGranahan said the bill, if ratified, would unfairly target financially disadvantaged Kentuckians. 

“This bill wouldn’t change anything if you were seeking it because you already cannot use medicaid to have an abortion,” she said. “This restriction is exclusively out of reach for Kentuckians who are low income or they’re living already in poverty.”

McGranahan said the ACLU opposes this bill, as its ratification could lead to more harmful legislation in the future. 

“In Kentucky, things like this are filed one right after another,” she said. “With the bill request for 835, There was also the request 865, requiring the public auditor to certain decisions about an abortion clinic that a public auditor there has no business making, you know, and [then there’s] Bill 864 and that is granting more additional powers for the Attorney General around abortion clinics. All of these four bill requests 376 concerning judicial bypass, all of these bills are unnecessary, and they are simply attacks on abortion access in Kentucky.” 

McGranahan noted the bill offered no exceptions for survivors of sexual harassment such as rape or incest, and with a rise of domestic violence amid the pandemic, McGranahan believes the bill could lead to “catastrophic” pregnancies. 

“In difficult situations, medical decision[s] needs to be made by that pregnant person, their family and their doctors, not politicians.” she said. “Members of the Kentucky General Assembly should not be able to force anyone to stay pregnant against their will.” 

District 68 Rep. Joseph M. Fischer sponsored Bill 835 with co-sponsors District 4 Rep. Lynn Bechler and District 90 Rep. Derek Lewis.

Rep. Fischer and Rep. Lewis did not respond to questions from WKMS.